Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Mystic Land Up North

Let me just begin by expressing my adoration for sand dunes. I know they are a strange thing to find super amusing, but I most certainly find them as such. I mean, how incredible is it that sand gets swept across an expanse of land and forms a beautiful mountain of messy, invasive, and gets-stuck-everywhere particles?! But really, quite amazing. And to speed down the giant hills on a dune board… even better!

And that was just the beginning of the weekend.

Welcome to Paihia!

Sarah, a friend from Germany, and I began on Saturday at about 6:50 AM to head north of Auckland. Finally got out of the city!! It was wonderful. Took the Stray Bus, a backpacker bus here in NZ. There are countless people of all ages that backpack for months on end around here… ridiculous! Regardless, we headed to the Bay of Islands for a short weekend. Planned to travel up on Saturday, returning to Auckland late Sunday evening. Then we heard about the tour that headed up to Cape Reinga! Needless to say, we returned to Auckland on Monday evening. And I’m very happy that we made the decision to do so! The Cape was well worth every minute!!

A view from the Cape!

Arrived in Paihia around 4 PM, booked tours, and then checked in at the hostel. Stayed at Pipi Patch, a Base Hostel. After check-in, Sarah and I took a walk up to Paihia Lookout. It was an unexpectedly nice walk through a winding jungle of green. A cute bridge, endless foliage, and a sweet lookout at the top! Then to dinner… took about 2 hours to get pasta. Ridiculous, but memorable, I guess! Home to hang out and then to sleep early.

Regarding the Cape trip: Drove along Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually 64 miles long, and they use the metric system anyway, so don’t know what Captain Cook was thinking!). Saw some wonderful sights on the way up, through foggy jungle-like terrain and numerous quaint villages, spotted with fishing boats, cafes, and cows. Sheep, also… even some PINK SHEEP at this crazy farm!! For pink jumpers, obviously.

Anyway… after arriving on the beach, we spent some time in the Tasman Sea, relaxed for a while, ran around, then jumped back on the bus. Oh, and I enjoyed a Fluffy on the way up! Basically like a cheap hot chocolate with froth, usually only for children. Tasty! On our way to the dunes, we enjoyed an incredible dark rye and salmon sandwich. Another tasty, healthy treat! We arrived at the dunes in just a short while, around mid-day. It was a super sunny, clear day by that time. Endured a brief introduction to “proper dune boarding” and then headed up the mountains of sand!! I must say I was quite excited, having had a lovely time at previous dunes. And these were no different! Well, we were at a lower latitude (sea level, namely), making it slightly nicer to climb the shifting sand. After taking a few breaks and making it to the top, we began our journey down! First time? A bit nervous, so I dug my feet in… next three times? Wanted to go as fast as possible and had a total blast!! Almost made it to the creek at the bottom, and the last time went in anyway. Too fun to pass up, eh?


After becoming sufficiently red-faced and sand-covered, we headed up to the Cape. Talk about beautiful overlooks! Wow. I’ve included a picture to try to capture the sheer wonder of the lighting. Wish it did it justice. This part of New Zealand is very important to the Maori people, being the location where the deceased spirits travel before leaving this land. Rich culture abounds, and the location is nothing short of miraculous to the local tribes. No food or drink is allowed on the track to ensure the purity of the sacred land. There is certainly an abundance of cultural understanding to grasp around the country.

Cape Reinga.

After Ninety Mile Beach, duning, and Cape Reinga, we headed south once again. Stopped along the way at a Gumdiggers Park where we toured the land. Kauri trees (giant) that fell several hundred thousand years ago were preserved in the peat layer of earth, preserving the wood in a natural state. There are examples in the park of 400,000 year old pieces of wood that are still workable, not petrified or fossilized. Quite interesting, really. Toured another location called “Kauri Kingdom” or something of the sort… These trees are literally so large that they have carved out the inside of one tree to form a rather large staircase! Second largest tree in the world, after the California Redwood. Then headed to the “best fish and chips in the country” at Maunganui Fish Market. Enjoyed the greasy meal, but it was definitely not my favorite thus far… We shall see! Back “home” to the hostel by 7:15 PM (over an hour late) and headed to shower immediately! So messy! Exhausted, but had a wonderful day.

Hugging a giant Kauri tree!

Day two was spent in Paihia, exploring a bit, attempting to watch the sun that never rose, and enjoying a dolphin adventure. But first, we had amazing apricot and cream cheese muffins! Once again, quite enjoyable. Otherwise, it was nice and chilly all day… Not exactly ideal for a boat trip, eh? Saw a few playful dolphins, learned a bit of history, and headed to the Hole in the Rock. It was a bit too rough at sea to go through the hole, so just observed from a rather close distance! Saw some black layered rocks, learned a bit of geology, and headed back to Paihia. The rest of our day was spent wandering around, making noodles for lunch, and watching a bit of rugby on the tele. Jumped on the bus around 4:30 PM and arrived back in Auckland by 8 PM or so.

That’s about all for the fun-filled weekend! Now it is Wednesday late afternoon and I’m getting ready to head to a friend’s house for dinner. Turned in my first project at U of A today; a “lovely” GeoFlyer for my Geology of New Zealand course. Exciting! Or not really… haha!

Word of the day:
munted: controversy still stands about usage of this word, but most commonly it is used to mean “broken, useless, messed up”

Have a good one.


  1. What a amazing trip. The dunes sound very exciting and Cape Regina looks spectacular.
    What an experience.

  2. Looks like you made a good choice when you picked NZ. I'm glad you are having such a wonderful time, but... I wish you were a bit closer!